Learn to Swim

What's different about swimming lessons at Dovercourt?

Dovercourt Recreation Centre takes swimming very seriously.

In addition to being an essential life skill, swimming is also an enormous life asset – from both a physical and mental health perspective. Bottom line, those who learn how to swim will have an enormous advantage in life.

The 4 pillars

Dovercourt strongly believes everyone should have that advantage, and with this, has built a unique and reputable swimming program based on 4 key pillars:

  • Quality of curriculum and instruction
  • Comfort and functionality of facilities
  • Choice & Flexibility
  • Access and inclusion

Dovercourt swim lessons have options for group, small-ratio and private lessons

Quality of curriculum and instruction

The Dovercourt swimming program is based on the Lifesaving Society’s  Swim for Life® model – a comprehensive approach that focuses on three fundamental strokes.  Learning Swim to Survive® and achieving the Lifesaving Society’s Swim to Survive® Standard are key foundations of the Swim for Life® program.

While Swim for Life® forms the foundation of our swimming program, it is our highly-skilled instructors who ultimately make it the success that it is.  Dovercourt swim staff undergo regular, extensive training on safety, current standards and teaching techniques. And our end-of-session “Survival Day” is unique to Dovercourt , with our instructors teaching children skills that could save their lives in real-life scenarios.  Sessions conclude with detailed online report cards filled out by the instructors.

In addition to their consummate level of instruction, our staff also put a strong emphasis on fun, patience and kindness. Allaying fears and instilling confidence in budding swimmers is a top priority. 

And we’re proud to say that many of our instructors were once students of Dovercourt’s swimming program themselves! Scroll down or click to read more about a few of our instructors

Dovercourt's amazing swim instruction team

Comfort and functionality of facilities

Dovercourt is conveniently located in central west Ottawa. With plenty of parking, an extensive playground, and close proximity to the shops and restaurants of Westboro, Dovercourt offers convenience and ease for families both coming and going. 

Once inside, you can enjoy our newly-built, bright family change room. During your child’s lesson, squeeze in a workout of your own and take advantage of the fitness centre with our $20 “Swim and Gym” pass. Or you can simply have a cup of coffee in our upstairs lounge where you can view your child’s lesson from above.

Our warm water pool features an easy-entry ramp, a variety of pods, and a multitude of instructional equipment and accessories – including a slide!

Young swimmers jumping in our warm pool

Choice & Flexibility

We want the registration process to be as simple and convenient as possible. This means you have the option of booking in-person, over-the-phone, or online. And with Dovercourt offeringn 7 days a week, you have a significant number of days and time slots to choose from.

Recognizing that some children benefit from smaller ratios, we also offer three types of classes – group lessons, limited enrolment, and private (one-on-one) classes.

Have a child attending summer day camp at Dovercourt? You have the option of adding swimming lessons to their day for a small added fee.

And as always at Dovercourt, if you have a need for something that isn’t currently available, let us know and we’ll do our very best to accommodate your needs.

Dovercourt's lessons include limited small class options

Access and Inclusion

Access and inclusion quite simply means that everyone is welcome at Dovercourt. Regardless of age, income, race, physical ability, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or gender identity — our swimming program is open to all. 

Dovercourt has offered low or no-cost classes to new Canadians, and our Last Minute Club provides free spots in swim classes that have failed to sell out at the start of the program. 

And for anyone who wishes to register for swimming at Dovercourt but finds that the expense is cost-prohibitive, you can request a financial assistance form to see if you qualify for a subsidy.

dovercourt's warm water pool in Ottawa

Swimming influences the development of the whole child

Some have said that swimming is a metaphor for life – we battle waves, go with the flow, try to keep our head above water – and of course, the proverbial sink or swim.  

The comparison is apt when you examine the benefits of swimming on the development of the whole child. According to the German Sports College Cologne, learning to swim at a young age can contribute significantly to left and right brain development, healthy self-esteem, strong self-discipline, and even academic success.*

*Read more details: https://goldfishswimschool.com/blog/top-7-benefits-year-round-swimming-scientifically-speaking/ 

Dovercourt's group swim lessons are fun and practical!

Swim Instructor Spotlight

The people who teach swimming at Dovercourt are pretty special. Not only are they exceptionally gifted in the water – they’re also warm, funny and kind – and they each have their own story of how they came to be a swim instructor.

Ross, Mikaela, Carly & Emma, some of our aquatic staff at Dovercourt


Ross Pennock-Banks

Ross wants you know that you should never be afraid of learning to swim, because there will always be someone there to help you and look out for you.

And when you do learn how to swim, the opportunities for fun are limitless. Ross’ favourite swimming memory as a child took place at his grandparents’ cottage:

“There was a little island on the lake with a rock that we would jump off of. My sister and grandmother and I would swim out and my grandfather would come over in a boat with lunch. We’d swim and then eat our lunch in the sun. It was great.”

Mikaela Rosewarne

Mikaela recalls childhood swimming lessons as being tough. She was never the best in the class and had to work extra hard to reach her goals. But it all paid off. In addition to feeling safe in the water, Mikaela was armed with an additional skill – confidence. 

“Swimming gave me an opportunity to make friendships and connections, I wouldn’t have otherwise. I also have the ability and self-assurance to problem solve in other facets of my life.”

Mikaela also feels the inclusive environment at Dovercourt has a positive impact on young swimmers. “Dovercourt is special because they find a way to include everyone.”

Carly Kimber

Carly is someone with a “can-do” attitude. It took her 5 tries to get through the Swimmer 5 level when she was a kid. But she didn’t let it get her down. She believes every kid owes it to himself or herself to try swimming.

“Like anything in life, if you never try, then you’ll never know. It’s ok to be nervous, but if you let the nerves hold you back, you’ll never be able to move forward.”

Carly is immensely grateful to the warm and welcoming environment that Dovercourt has provided to her:

“Dovercourt has been like a home away from home for me. From the staff to the kids, it’s like I’ve had a new family for the past 5 years.”

Emma Freeman-Harkin

Swimming for Emma is “me time”. “Breathing, kicking and pulling through the water is incredibly calming for me. I love it.”

When reflecting on her early days of swimming, she fondly recalls a moment with her brother (a former Dovercourt swim instructor):

“My brother and I took semi-private lessons growing up. I remember the day I finally learned how to do a standing dive, because it was also the day my brother threw my swim goggles to the bottom of the pool.”

When it comes to allaying the fears of non-swimmers, Emma is has comforting words of encouragement:

“It’s ok to be scared, and to not want to do everything on your first day. But come get your toes wet and we’ll work at your pace.”